I’D RATHER HAVE JESUS
Mrs. Rhea F. Miller, 1894–1966
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
The inspiring and challenging words of this hymn, written by Mrs. Rhea Miller, so influenced 23–year-old George Beverly Shea that they determined the direction of his entire life. As he began to compose a melody for these moving lines, he decided to devote his singing talent to God’s glory alone.
Growing up with devoted Christian parents, Bev was encouraged to use his fine singing voice often in the services of the Wesleyan Methodist churches of which his father was a minister. Financial needs of the family made it necessary for him to leave college and work in an insurance office. However, he continued singing in churches and for Christian radio programs. Unexpectedly he was offered an audition for a secular singing position in New York City and passed the test. The opportunity for a substantial salary and wide recognition made Bev’s decision very difficult.
One Sunday as Bev went to the family piano to prepare a song for the morning service, he found there the poem “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” His mother, who collected beautiful quotations and literary selections, had begun to leave some of them around the house for her son to read, hoping to guide him spiritually. Bev was deeply moved with the challenging message of this text. Immediately he began to compose the music for the lines and used the song that same day in his father’s church service.
Bev Shea comments: “Over the years, I’ve not sung any song more than ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus,’ but I never tire of Mrs. Miller’s heartfelt words.” As a young man of 23, Bev allowed the message of this text to guide him wisely to a wonderfully productive and worthwhile life of service to Christ as he shared his musical “theme song” with audiences around the world—
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land; I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand:
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy name:
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb; He’s all that my hungering spirit needs—I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead:
Refrain: Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway! I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.
For Today: Joshua 24:15; Matthew 16:24–26; Romans 1:16; Philippians 3:8
What would be your honest response to this question: “What are you living for and what would you be willing to die for?” Sing this testimony—